Sirolimus and Other Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Inhibitors Directly Activate Latent Pathogenic Human Polyomavirus Replication

Jennifer Alvarez Orellana, Hyun Jin Kwun, Sara Artusi, Yuan Chang, Patrick S. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Human polyomaviruses can reactivate in transplant patients, causing nephropathy, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, Merkel cell carcinoma, pruritic, rash or trichodysplasia spinulosa. Sirolimus and related mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors are transplant immunosuppressants. It is unknown if they directly reactivate polyomavirus replication from latency beyond their general effects on immunosuppression. Methods: In vitro expression and turnover of large T (LT) proteins from BK virus, JC virus (JCV), Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV), human polyomavirus 7 (HPyV7), and trichodysplasia spinulosa polyomavirus (TSV) after drug treatment were determined by immunoblotting, proximity ligation, replicon DNA replication, and whole virus immunofluorescence assays. Results: mTOR inhibition increased LT protein expression for all 5 pathogenic polyomaviruses tested. This correlated with LT stabilization, decrease in the S-phase kinase-associated protein 2 (Skp2) E3 ligase targeting these LT proteins for degradation, and increase in virus replication for JCV, MCV, TSV, and HPyV7. Treatment with sirolimus, but not the calcineurin inhibitor tacrolimus, at levels routinely achieved in patients, resulted in a dose-dependent increase in viral DNA replication for BKV, MCV, and HPyV7. Conclusions: mTOR inhibitors, at therapeutic levels, directly activate polyomavirus replication through a Skp2-dependent mechanism, revealing a proteostatic latency mechanism common to polyomaviruses. Modifying existing drug regimens for transplant patients with polyomavirus-associated diseases may reduce symptomatic polyomavirus replication while maintaining allograft-sparing immunosuppression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1160-1169
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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